donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: Linda M. Day, Esther (AOTC), Abingdon Press, 2005; in: Interpretation

Linda M. Day, Esther (AOTC), Abingdon Press, 2005.

Review in: Interpretation 2006 60: 473
Review door: Johanna W. H. van Wijk-Bos
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by Linda M. Day
Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries. Abingdon, Nashville, 2005.
177 pp. $24.00. ISBN 0-687-49792-2.

LINDA DAY'S CLOSE ANALYSIS of the text of Esther is preceded by an introduction that reviews literary genre, possible historical context, and theological concerns of this short biblical book. Each text unit receives an examination on three levels: the literary, the exegetical, and the theological/ethical. Of these three, the greatest weight is given to the exegetical level. The comments are for the greatest part in-depth and interpretive rather than strictly exegetical. For example, noting Esther's demeanor as she stands in the inner court waiting for Ahasuerus to notice her, Day observes that "sporting a pretty face and figure is no longer her concern; instead she wears an aura of political authority. Esther has grown into her position of queen" (p. 95). The exegetical discussions include reviews of word-use, of phrasing and repetitions, as well as the possible inferences to be drawn from these. Esther, in Day's opinion, is a Jewish novel similar to texts such as Daniel, Judith, Tobit, and Joseph and Aseneth, partaking of comparable "contexts, structures, situations, and characters" (p. 12). Day dates the book to approximately the same time as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Although the book of Esther is not teeming with theological ramifications, it is thoroughly biblical and connects strongly to the rest of the biblical tradition, according to Day.

Esther, long neglected or viewed negatively in church and academia, has seen an upsurge of interest in the past few decades. Of the works cited in the bibliography, the overwhelming majority were written after 1980. The impetus for this interest has come on the one hand from increased scholarly interest in literary style and conventions as they apply to biblical texts, and on the other hand from the partipation of women in the scholarly endeavor, which has occasioned works from feminist scholars as well as renewed attention to women's presence in the Bible. Day's work has benefited from both and contains many felicitous observations that have their foundation in an understanding of existence on the margins, such as the relevance of the book to those who are forced to hide on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The challenge for anyone writing on Esther today is to achieve fresh insights, and this Day does admirably, writing both accessibly and with scholarly attention to detail.

Here and there the book suffers from grammatical or stylistic awkwardness, issues that should have been solved by a diligent copyeditor. Inexplicably, the commentary uses academic style for transcribing Hebrew, which makes Hebrew citations impossible to decipher for anyone not trained in the language.

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